Jan 17, 2024 Print This Article

What It Means to Belong to Christ

“For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living” (Rom. 14:7-9 ESV).

Indeed, we belong to Christ! He lives and reigns and redeems us. And He calls us to live in this broken and sinful world in service to Him, as His chosen and beloved possessions.

Each year, our students come to campus from all walks of life to be formed and prepared in service to the Lord, to be His hands and feet around the world. We asked a few of them to tell us what it means to belong to Christ.

Peter Frank photo

‘He created me’

Peter Frank is a fourth-year Master of Divinity student from Chicago and a married father of three. He is a second-career student who worked for 15 years primarily in marketing before embracing life as a future pastor in The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS).

“I was raised in a Christian household and have been a member of LCMS congregations my entire life. It was in high school, when I started going on mission trips, that I really understood what it meant to be part of the body of Christ. The mission trip experiences were great, but it was the relationships I developed that connected me to the church. I saw men from my congregation who were very successful in their careers use their vacation time to teach VBS and work at medical clinics in Mexico. They mentored me in various ways, showing me how they could use the gifts God had given them in service to others, both in their professional careers and through their service in the church. “I live for Christ because I can do nothing else. He created me and gave me this life, and His sacrifice on the cross and His resurrection from the grave have given me the promise of life forever. He has made me His own dear child through Baptism, and all that He has given me is to be used to serve others for His glory. As I prepare to enter the Office of the Holy Ministry, I know that He has equipped me for all that He is sending me to do. I know He will use me to teach and show others how to live faithfully and assure them of His grace and mercy because they belong to Christ.”

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‘Jesus is truly at work’

Matt Gerzevske, who grew up in the Chicago suburbs the fifth son of a Vietnamese immigrant mother and an American father, is a married Master of Sacred Theology student.

“My parents, especially my sainted father, were intentional in forming me with a life centered on Jesus Christ. Throughout high school and college, and through difficult times and times of bounty, the identity that He gives me through the waters of Baptism has been integral to who I am as a person.

“Vicarage was a time when I particularly felt reliant upon Christ. In many ways, the vicarage year is filled with both joys and challenges. Your first taste of the day-to-day workings of parish ministry forces you to grow in areas that you did not know you needed. It continues to be a supreme comfort to know that Jesus is truly at work through His gifts. “The church has always been home. It has been the place where I have experienced the tangible love of God in His Word and Sacraments and through His people. It is my hope that I can serve the church by helping it to be that home for others who need to experience the love and welcome of Jesus. My life in Jesus is centered on His life-giving Word. Through His Word, Jesus puts to death the old man in me and raises me up anew. Living with His Word means living with the community of His people who read His Word together. I pray that my studies at Concordia Seminary strengthen me as one who studies His Word so that I may serve the church in its life with God’s Word.”

Julie Baumann photo

‘Who I am and whose I am’

Julie Baumann is a second-year residential Deaconess Studies (Master of Arts with Deaconess Certification) student. She grew up in Sioux Falls, S.D.

“My parents did a wonderful job of making sure my siblings and I knew the importance of our faith and life both in and outside of the church. It was incredibly formative for me that they modeled their faith both at home, at church and in their interactions in public. Growing up, they often ‘voluntold’ me for different activities in church, but as I got older, I began to participate willingly. Serving others became second nature because they modeled it for me first! My parents always made sure to remind me that no matter what I did or failed to do, they loved me. Even better, they always reminded me that ‘Jesus loves you most of all.’

“One of the more recent times where I felt I belonged to Christ was this past spring. Life hit me like a truck in many not-so-good ways. I had never gone through so much inner turmoil. Many of these things followed me throughout the summer and lingered even into the fall. Yet through it all, Christ found countless ways to remind me of who I am and whose I am. He rallied my closest friends and family together — and even at times, complete strangers — and guided them to uplift me when I felt that I couldn’t stand. Christ continually reminded me that He made me into a daughter, a sister and a friend. He reminded me that I have a lot of growing to do. That I have my own strengths to work on and weaknesses to tackle. But most importantly, He reminded me again and again that I am not my own. I am His.

“Whether I realize it or not, I live for Christ every day. In my interactions with my friends and family, or with strangers I see on the street, His light and life are in me. Because of this, it can be really daunting to think that I have to act or speak a certain way at all times, and thankfully He forgives me when I forget whose I am. Through it all, I can trust that He already has forgiven me! He even, somehow, miraculously works through my mistakes. I want to continue to live for Christ and serve Him in all that I do, not just in my future vocation as a called deaconess, but also in my daily life with those around me. I want to continue to grow in my faith and love of Him, to be able to better meet others during their times of trial and temptation. He’s given me many opportunities to put this into practice with strangers and friends, and I know He will have no shortage of ways for me to continue to serve others throughout my life!”

Tim Thompson photo

‘He patiently woos us’

Tim Thompson is a Specific Ministry Pastor (SMP) student from Greensboro, N.C. Currently working as a librarian while he takes SMP courses, he and his wife have two children.

“I was raised Presbyterian. My family was very active in the life of the church when I was growing up: My father sang in the choir and was one of the deacons. I remember helping him by making sure the pencils in the pews were sharpened and helping serve food at the monthly men’s breakfasts. Attendance and participation in Sunday school and Sunday worship was expected and normal.

“My home congregation has been without a pastor for four and a half years. We have a few retired pastors who have been graciously filling the pulpit for us for all of this time, but they let the congregation know that health issues were beginning to become problems and that they would not be able to continue serving us indefinitely. Another solution to our vacant pulpit would be needed. The congregation decided they wanted me to look into the SMP Program (a distance education pastoral program) with the goal of me becoming the pastor of the congregation.

“I think most of us have this head knowledge that we belong to Christ, but in the normal circumstances of life, He doesn’t exactly push Himself upon us or intrude into our lives. As the Bridegroom of the church, He patiently woos us. I have been content and satisfied with my secular life. But through the church’s vote, God put me on the track to the Office of Holy Ministry. Christ Jesus claimed His right to me (‘I belong to Christ’) when He placed upon my heart the charge to care for my brothers and sisters in Him — to care for my spiritual family.

“The trust and hope my congregation have in me is humbling. Harkening back to family, the congregation is my spiritual family. Family takes care of family — I don’t want to let them down. God willing, I won’t. The congregation needs a pastor to preach the Word, to distribute the Sacrament of the Altar, to pronounce Absolution. The church needs to hear God loves her, God will care for her and God forgives her. That God would use me in this capacity is a wonder.”

Sam Aizenberg photo

‘Living for Christ’

Sam Aizenberg is a newly married fourth-year Master of Divinity student from Las Vegas. Raised in a conservative Jewish background, he converted to Lutheranism in college.

“Becoming a Christian was where faith began to play a role in every aspect of my life — and I excitedly pursued sharing the Gospel of the Lord with so many others around me. I felt like I belonged to Christ the most through interactions in college with my fellow classmates and professors who took time during class to oppose my faith in Christ. While many of these interactions were intense and frightful, I always knew the Holy Spirit gave me the words to say, and I was there to bear witness to Jesus Christ. I never felt like Jesus left me in those moments … because I belong to Him. Some of the most rewarding times were when other Christians in the room who I did not know would seek me out after class. It was a comfort knowing Jesus also had provided me with fellow Christians to be with when I felt like there were not any. “When I learned Luther’s concept of ‘vocation,’ it changed how I see living for Christ every day. I get to live how those that belong to Christ do wherever I am — whether at work, in school, running errands, spending time with others or at church. I’ve also learned to embrace the abilities, personality and demeanor God has given me and use it to the fullest in a faithful witness to Jesus every day, which I will continue to do as a parish pastor who also encourages others to do the same.”

Daniel Kofi Akoh photo

‘Because of who He is’

Daniel Kofi Akoh, a Master of Sacred Theology student and married father of seven, was born and raised in Ghana. He is a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghana, a partner church body of the LCMS.

“[For years] I lived with my family as ‘ordinary’ churchgoers of evangelical Presbyterian and Methodist churches. I really felt like I belonged to Christ after a few visits to the Lutheran church at Bawjiase in Ghana. It was when I was sitting in their catechism classes that I first heard that Christ loves me not because of who I am, but because of who He is. I felt so much belonging from Him because there was nothing I could do to attract His love.

“Living for Christ I seek to participate and serve in Lutheran churches, doing what little I can, enabled by the Lord to support the proclamation of the Gospel.”

Melanie Ave is director of communications for Concordia Seminary, St. Louis.